Friday, December 23, 2011

How I Became a Horse Lover without Riding

Some of my readers may realize I make part of my living by selling ads for a horse newspaper, The Rider.  Some assume I must have some sort of background with horses, but that is embarrassingly not true.

My involvement with The Rider (Ontario's horse trade newspaper) came through a back door. I had spent almost 20 years working for mostly community newspapers in the circulation department.  Later through a complicated chain of events I ended up representing an environmentally friendly cleaning company called TKO, later evolving to Orange aPEEL. That is how I met the Finns, Aidan, Barry and Katherine who ran The Rider and had bought a TKO territory. I loved working for newspapers and offered my services on a commission only basis even though I had no experience with the horse trade.

Most horse people I tried to persuade to buy an ad weren't too concerned about anything other than how much it cost and how many people would read it or if we could help design the ad. Every now and then they would throw a few horsey words or phrases at me and I realized I didn't understand what they were referring to. Overcoming my embarrassment I asked a few questions, confessing my ignorance of horses and gradually learned a few things. That allowed me to feign some knowledge to a few other horse owners.

You can't really sell what you don't understand so I got myself involved in reading books and even wrote reviews of horse oriented books for awhile.   I attended events from time to time--Quarterama and the Royal Winter Fair and a few local events.

Somehow I stumbled on Gord Westover who also didn't own any horses, but was experienced with them. A project I came up with was to write up about draft horses as I thought that would help break new territory. Gord expressed the most interest in this project with his focus on Shires. Shires are the largest horses and it turns out amongst the most gentle. I remarked once to Gord that most of the people I worked with didn't come anywhere near horses and I guess I was kind of lucky. He remarked that anyone who could get to nuzzle a horse was very lucky.
Gord bought a classified ad from me.  He offered to take care of farms so the farmer could take a vacation.  But he didn't want to milk cows so he discouraged such requests by naming his business, "HorseSit" and it seemed to work.

I am still pretty much a spectator, but a very interested one. I do consider it a perk that to watch a lot of horses doing a lot of different things. I have learned a lot of interesting facts (and opinions) about horses and met a lot of fascinating people as well. I had been brought up to think of dogs as man's best friend and as an adult have become attached to my cats, but I can see that horses are more unique. They could easily have run away, but chose not to do so. That trust relationship has been very beneficial for mankind, but maybe not always so beneficial for horses.

My father was a truck driver and once he remarked that he was the third generation of Teamsters. At the time I didn't realize he was including a great grandfather who managed a team of horses. I learned on my wife's side that one of her Ukrainian great grandfathers was also a teamster. Really it is easy to forget that we all had some important connections with horses in our ancestry.

As horses have become a big part of my life I will be blogging about them and hope you will find it worth while reading about these most remarkable creatures we humans have been blessed to know. When you get to know them you won't find them boring.

About the Photo: Gord Westover persuaded me to attend a show of Shires held at the CNE grounds back in August of 2000.   He was aware of a particularly magnificent example brought in from New York state. Another detail I remember is that the owner, an older gray bearded fellow had a sign that said "The future of draft horses is Youth" and he kept the theme alive by employing a number of younger people. Anyway my camera flash refused to co-operate when I was given a chance to photograph the horse--Metherington Upton.  So Gord, smart enough to know this would be a good boost for the breed asked the owner if the horse could be taken outside. They agreed. I don't feel my photograph does justice to this horse, but it is my favorite. One on looker drove through a stop sign while looking at the horse.

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